The Big Day. Early breakfast as a tactical move to avoid meeting GG! At 9.30 a car comes to pick us up. We drive together with Rajesh and Geetha who are already like long-term friends. Several comments are made along the lines that it’s a shame we never got together in the UK. I think we’ll be keeping in touch.
The first part of the wedding is at XXX Memorial Hall, a modern open building, purpose-built for wedding ceremonies. The pictures will tell more about the set-up itself. We’re welcomed by Nandita’s father, wearing a traditional dress and turban, and meet various others. It is the bride’s family’s responsibility to look after the groom’s family and their guests. Since we are friends of the groom (and foreign guests) we are looked after extremely well and people go out of their way to make sure we are comfortable, get explanations of what’s going to happen, etc.
Deep’s arrival is accompanied by various welcoming rituals between the two families. Nandita’s father symbolically washes Deep’s feet as a token of respect, etc. It is all very very different from a Christian wedding. Inside the hall the front rows are occupied by women in colourful sarees, and we sit just behind them. Most of the men are towards the back of the hall. Deep and Nandita are kept on separate sides of the podium with their families and respective priests. Early on Deep occupied centre stage, and later a series of rituals are performed on either side. Music provided by a saxophone and a tam-tam thing provides an accompaniment to the entire proceedings.
Ness gets a running commentary from Geetha, which is relayed to me. Hopefully this will make its way into Nessie’s diary as I can’t remember most of it! There is a break for breakfast, which is served in a large dining hall below the main hall. Idli-like things, potato something, and coffee. Very tasty. Nandita’s family again look after us (e.g. as westerners we get cutlery, mineral water, etc.)
The rest of the morning is taken up by rituals on the stage, the “audience” almost seems superfluous to the whole thing. On stage both priests control the proceedings on either side. Lots of throwing of rice, over the head or into the ritual fire. Symbolic turn of a grindstone. At one point Deep tries, as part of the ritual, to walk away from the ceremony with his worldly goods (represented by an umbrella), Nandita’s father has to plead with him to stay and take his daughter and look after her.
Then follows lunch, served as a thali on palm leaves. Some of the server-uppers need a bit of training and liberally splash whatever they are serving. Again we get special treatment: cutlery, mineral water, commentary, etc. Ness and I adopt the Indian style of eating with our hands, which is tricky but fun. The meal is delicious, lots of different dishes, varied, and spicy. Lunch concludes the first part of the day; part two begins at 5pm. Ness goes back to the Saree Palace with the other girls and GG. I wait for the car to come back and camp out in the hotel room to catch up on diary. Ness gets back soon with her saree and spends some time altering the alterations (stitched on sleeves too small).
Our cars are waiting below and take us back to the wedding hall. Inside rituals are still being performed. The stage is now decorated with flower garlands and a few more musicians have joined the two from this morning. More people are streaming in, in dribs and drabs, and before 6pm the hall is full. 6pm is the auspicious time for the actual moment suprême and the rituals and music have been building up to a crescendo to this point. After the actual wedding has taken place there is an opportunity to go on the stage and congratulate Deep and Nandita and we join the crowd as a group so that we may have our photo taken as “the western friends”. This procession goes on for a good length of time, I duck out for “fresh air” at one point, and then the ritual continues with various ritual games, etc. Unfortunately we have no running commentary from Rajesh and Geetha this time as we are sat apart.
A buffet is served outside, some people take their plates into the dining hall, others stand around outside, like us. Food is tasty but not as grand as at the Udaipur wedding. If anything it is a bit bland, for Indian food. For the rest of the evening we trundle back and forth between the main hall, where ritual continues unabated, and outside for “fresh air”. Rajesh and I chat with Nandita’s uncle who is looking after us and making sure we’re comfortable, fed, watered, etc. Ness and Geetha seem to have hit it off and are obviously on the same wavelength.
A lot of people seem to have disappeared very shortly after the actual wedding and a bit at the buffet. By 9-9.30 the hall and outside are quite empty, only a couple of dozen people still around. We say our goodbyes to Deep and Nandita, leave the present and card with Maya, Deep’s sister, and drive back to the hotel, where we settle in the (wood-panelled!) bar for several rounds of Kingfisher-substitute. We also say bye to Rajesh and Geetha who are on a 10.30 night bus back to Bangalore.
The wedding was a real spectacle, colourful, elaborate, etc. but not a “big” wedding by North Indian standards where they sometimes go on for several days. Glad we came, but now keen to get on with the remainder of our holiday. First we have to go sightseeing around Mangalore for a day and there is a smaller reception at the hotel tomorrow evening.